Scientists Plan To Give Robotic Cats Artificial Intelligence To Help Seniors

The robotic cats currently serve as companions to the elderly, but scientists think the fake felines could do much more.

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Joyr For All cat
The robotic cats were originally designed to provide companionship to the elderly. Via Hasbro
Stephanie Brown

Everyone needs companionship, especially seniors. Hasbro’s Joy For All line of robotic cats do just that, but scientists hope the lifelike pets will be able to do more for the elderly with a little help from artificial intelligence.

Scientists at Brown University have received a three-year, $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to find ways to add artificial intelligence to the robotic cats that can benefit the seniors who own them, The Associated Press reports.

The Joy For All line launched two years ago and is designed to “bring comfort, companionship and fun to elder loved ones,” the Hasbro website reads. The battery-operated cat purrs and has internal sensors that respond to touch, prompting it to roll over for belly rubs or to fall asleep when you stop petting it.

Joy For All robotic cats respond to petting, hugging and motion, but don’t require any special care or feeding, like real cats do. Via Hasbro

Researchers at Brown’s Humanity-Centered Robotics Initiative want to take it further by adding other capabilities that could help seniors with simple tasks, such as reminding them to take medication or letting them know when they have a doctor’s appointment. They are working to determine which tasks would make the most sense and how the cats could communicate that info — since a talking cat would be pretty weird. They also want to figure how to do all that without having the cats cost an arm and a leg (the cats currently cost about $100).

“It’s not going to iron and wash dishes,” Bertram Malle, a professor of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences at Brown, told the AP. “Nobody expects them to have a conversation. Nobody expects them to move around and fetch a newspaper. They’re really good at providing comfort.”

Now, if we could get our living, breathing cats to help out around the house, that would be a real advancement in science.

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